Big Ben VS Mike Vick: Differential Ethics in Stadium Sports

I think I'm finally disappointed in Big Ben.

I've generally been a Pittsburgh sub-fan for almost two decades. I would always root for them in the playoffs after they shellacked whatever unlikely AFC team I cheered for (Bills in the mid-late 90's, Jets in the 00's). I rooted for them because they were familiar faces in my conference of interest, and they always seemed like solid dudes. I loved Roethlisbergerever since his rookie year when I saw him simply plow dudes over to cross the goal-line. He was a rookie who said, "rookies aren't incompetent and they don't need to be coddled".

When my sub-fanmanship had increased dramatically due to a change of crowd, they coincidentally won the Superbowl. I felt pretty comfortable as an ethical bandwagon jumper, and they kept doing well. Then I watched them win another Superbowl victory a few years later (well, I blacked out, but I saw highlights on TV).

When Big Ben crashed his motorcycle without a helmet, I thought, well fuck... there goes an awesome guy to a accident which is probably caused by the same reason he's awesome to begin with (delusions of grandeur, dumb jock-ness). AND THEN HE RECOVERED. What's not to love?

Cut to the date-rape charges. I was generally unimpressed. With the charges. I'm going to say something which probably makes me a bad person, but at least I won't be rude and pretend to be a good person.

I tend to have very little sympathy for alleged victims of date rape. For a number of reasons. First and foremost--the unsubstantiated nature of the charge. It is, at its root, a her word against his situation. Unlike rape, where there is signs of violence, circumstantial evidence, and--often times--no reason for the two people to have been having consensual sex, true date-rape seems just as likely as a false date-rape allegation to occur. Women know that not a single guy on campus is seriously interested in partying with them all night, getting good and sloshed and then going back to his place to watch Outsourced and fall asleep. So, while going home with a guy at the end of the night does not make a girl deserving of date-rape, it seems like something that she really shouldn't be doing unless she wants intercourse. Why? Because, you COULD get date-raped!

This is not some new bit of data, it's probably almost as well known as "wear a condom". If you have sex without a condom, you have an certain percentage chance of getting an STD, HIV or babies. We tend to have very little sympathy for couples who get knocked up because they didn't use protection. This doesn't warrant a rape-penalty, but it is still THEIR RESPONSIBILITY. Just as the the members of the couple have a shared responsibility to use protection, there is some responsibility for a girl not to put herself in dangerous positions. The guy's share of the responsibility is obviously 100% not to date-rape anybody. Is the girl's share then 0%? No, because their responsibility dividends are not cut from the same pie. If a girl can feasibly control the situations in a manner which put herself at less than 2% likely to be date-raped, then I'd say she has a 98% responsibility not to GET date-raped. If my wallet is stolen because I hung it out of a moving trolley with one-hand, and I'm aware that people out there like to snatch wallets, I may be a victim of theft, but doesn't that doesn't mean I had no responsibility to look after myself.

What if my wallet wasn't stolen. What if I was just drunk and feeling empathetic and I gave it to a homeless person? The next morning I sober up and decide it wasn't a good idea. Can I now charge that person with a VIOLENT CRIME--against which he has no recourse whatsoever?

What if walk up to a hobo with wallet in out-stretched hand, offer it to him, he takes it, and then at the last minute I ask for it back. If he doesn't let go of it quickly enough, does he deserve jail time?

These seem like ridiculous comparisons but you have to consider the very drastic drop in legality between two people fucking (legal) and two people rounding third base and then at the last second one of them changes their mind and expresses this with varying levels of clarity (jail-time).

The severity of this crime which in many ways can be determined as such by a likely intoxicated, possibly careless, and hopefully honest person is where my lack of sympathy for alleged date-rape victims kicks in. ESPECIALLY where famous people are concerned. Once you accuse a man of something like that, there's no getting his reputation back, and it could damage his career. If the dude's famous, a girl might have every incentive to do it.

So let's move this back to Big Ben. In light of Tiger Woods, we've seen that it's good business to go out and jump on the sexual coat-tails of superstars. When women were accusing Big Ben of date-rape, I was believing them significantly less than I would have believed a regular case. Not only did my opinion of Big Ben not waver, but if anything I found myself sympathizing with him for what I knew could be slanderous ruining of a dude's career.

And then I watched the pre-game show before last week's Pittsburgh/Baltimore game.

Bill Cower was interviewing his former players, asking them how badly they hated the Ravens. One of the questions was: If you were on your way to the stadium, and you saw Terrel Suggs on the side of the road broken down, would you stop and give him a ride? Most of the dudes said "no". Big Ben said, "I'm a changed man now, so yes."


I saw that as him basically admitting guilt for an incident famous enough that he doesn't need to mention it. The only one I'm aware of is sexual assault.

If now I believe the charges against him are true (which, now, I do) then how can I seriously root for this guy ever again?

This isn't all that bad a dilemma, especially because my Jets are in a position to be serious Superbowl contenders sometime this decade. The really bad dilemma is this:

If I'm abandoning Big Ben for his personal behavior, how do I justify continuing to root for my favorite player, Mike Vick, who is also guilty of some heinous shit?

Oh man, there's a doozy. Because I'm a dog lover. A crazy dog lover. Back during college, I had a subscription to Dog Fancy Magazine, and for lol's, we'd put the centerfolds up on the walls. Generally speaking I like dogs more than girls. And they were killed, not rufied!

I kid, of course, but I sling these exaggerations to point out how seriously I take Vick's crimes. When I positively identified a Halifax Bed and Breakfast Owner's dog as a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel in 2009, I solidified my long-standing alliance with the K-9.

You might ask, "how have you been rooting for Vick all this time, considering what he's infamously done?".

And I've always answered, I love him for his touchdown synthesis and his role in the evolution of the NFL. Killing puppies doesn't violate any agreement he's made with me as part of our fan/QB contract. It's certainly fucked up, I'll admit, but it doesn't make what he does on the field a lie.

Aye, there's the rub. When Big Ben drives the ball, I'm rooting for the Steelers as a personality, and for Big Ben as a player of a game. When Vick does his thing, I'm rooting for Vick as an athlete--and for the Eagles as an extension of what Vick represents on the major landscape of professional sports.

Let's scoot over to an alternate reality--one in which neither Vick nor Ben have any poor reputation. If you said to me, "Tomorrow, football will be illegal, never to be played again. We're going to execute one player. You get to chose between Mike Vick (my favorite player) and Ben Rothlisberger (maybe in my top 20)." There's no question about it that I would give the bullet to Vick. Because, outside of the realm of the NFL, Vick does nothing for me. He has evil-ass eyes, he's not particularly loud, and I really don't think I relate to him on any personal level.[1] But on the field, he's a machine. A gun-slinging, scramble-sprinting machine who proves that football's future will be owned by progressivism. Big Ben is just a clutch, cocky beefhead who loves this shit. This makes me like him a lot as a dude but only so much as a QB because my inner rebel will always prefer game changers to good examples of the status quo.

So, the reason I don't give a shit about Mike Vick's dog thing is because, on a humanity level, I really don't give a shit about Mike Vick. I know that a certain quotient of humans are going to do terrible things, especially to the helpless and I've come to terms with that. If Vick wants to drown a dog who can't win a fight, that's really no difference than some dog in the wild who gets eaten because he can't win a fight (well, it's a little different, but the end result is the same, and that's important). Is it fair that a squirrel gets grabbed by a hawk and eaten after a good neck-crushing? No. Evolution is a horrible horrible thing, and the real world is an ego-crushing nightmare. Mike Vick is an extension of the real world out on the field. He's stronger and faster, and so he tears down tradition QB values. And since football is maybe the grandest of our modern large-scale myths, I find I enjoy a little cold-hard expectancy-violation pumped into it. Vick lets me enjoy the horrors of natural selection from the comfort of my arm-chair. He makes it more like actual gladiators defending the nearby city-state.

To cheer for Big Ben is to enjoy the puritanical notion that if you want it bad enough and you focus hard enough and you have the guts to take some hits and maintain a steady hand then you'll make it to glory. And while I just lauded the value of dog-drown-dog future-bowl, I ALSO like to enjoy some of the more traditional and less nihilistic elements of old-fashioned bowl [2]. But Big Ben went from a likable bro to definite rapist in one interview--and well then isn't that fucking special. He's no longer a tall reflection of part of my inner America. He's just an actual douchebag giving the hipsters more fuel to hate fraternity brothers and over-use the word douchebag.

That's right, I managed to tie hipster-hate into a Sports Philosophy.

It seemed important...

[1] Really goes to emphasize the shitiness of human nature: we are only concerned with those who are in some way like US.
[2] I generally try to enjoy all things on all levels imaginable. I'm an glutton.

1 comment:

leo said...

You could always take Frank Wychek, put him in Roethlisberger's jersey and helmet, and then do it. No one would notice.